Learning to See in the Dark

Processing low-light images with minimal noise

Researchers with the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign and Intel have developed a deep neural network that brightens ultra-low light images without adding noise and other artefacts.  The network was trained using 5,094 raw short-exposure low-light and long-exposure image pairs—the end result is a system that automatically brightens images at a much higher quality than traditional processing options.

Traditional methods to process low light images result typically in high levels of noise that is absent using the machine learning process:

Learning to see in the dark

These almost unbelievable examples of machine learning are revealed in the video below:

Paper: HERE

Project Page: HERE

End of an era?

2 flagship film cameras discontinued on the same day…

30 May 2018 marked the end of an era for Leica as they discontinued the M7 film camera after 16 years of service.  However, film lovers will still be able to purchase the Leica MP and Leica M-A cameras.

Leica M7This image is of the stunning 2004 titanium special edition set (worth over £200,000), launched to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Leica M system, with a production run of just 50 pieces.

Just minutes after Leica’s announcement, Canon broke similar news with the discontinuation of their last film camera, the EOS-1V:

Thank you very much for your continued patronage of Canon products.
By the way, we are finally decided to end sales for the film single lens reflex camera EOS – 1V.
We will also take repair measures until October 31, 2025, even after the repair correspondence period of our company’s repair service contract for the purpose of improving service and support for customers who use this product.

From Canon Japan (Google Translated)


kodak_single_use_daylight_cameraThe antithesis of this news came from Kodak Alaris who have just launched a new single-use disposable camera in Europe.  The Kodak Daylight Single Use Camera has a 33mm f/10.0 lens with fixed focus from 1m to infinity and a somewhat unusual 39 exposure 800 ISO film.  Priced at £7.99 you could buy 250 for the list price of the Canon EOS-1V!

Displaying Stained Glass

Moving stained glass window

In my investigation into the display of stained glass, I was drawn to the work of Bill Viola who has brought the some of the magic of Harry Potter’s wizarding world to stained glass.  St. Cuthbert’s Church in Edinburgh (Kirk of the Castle Rock and Princes Street Gardens) is currently home to a video art installation by the American video artist.

methode_times_prod_web_bin_2fb35a34-5d38-11e8-a5a8-017dcfd37dc1James Glossop (2018) – Three Women by Bill Viola, St. Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh

‘Three Women (2008)’ haThree Women (2008)s most recently been on display in the Grand Palais, Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.  It forms part of the Edinburgh Art Festival 2018 and is installed until 1st September.

‘Three Women (2008)’ is part of the Transfigurations series.  In this work, the mother and her daughters enact a transfiguration when they choose to pass through the threshold of water and briefly enter an illuminated realm.

St. Cuthbert’s is one of two buildings in the UK exhibiting a Viola piece.  The other is St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, which houses two permanent video installations ‘Martyrs (2014)’, and its companion piece, ‘Mary (2016)’.

Bill Viola (2008) – Three Women (2008)

Size is relative

World’s Largest Ultrahigh-Sensitivity CMOS Sensor

Image1Since 2010 Canon has drip-fed information about their large CMOS sensor (further information HERE).  However, they have now released a little more information and given an indication of its huge size, by placing The Large Ultrahigh-Sensitivity CMOS Image Sensor alongside their EOS 600D (Rebel T3i) digital SLR camera.

Full article HERE.

Uncovering lost C19th photos

X-ray beam reveals hidden photographs

Once believed to be lost forever, badly degraded daguerreotypes, taken as early as 1850 have been revealed using rapid-scanning micro-X-ray fluorescence to see past the deterioration and recover the early images. Researchers at the University of Western Ontario in Canada led by Madalena Kozachuk employed synchrotron X-rays and fluorescence imaging to analyse old 19th-century daguerreotype plates.

Daguerreotypes used iodine-sensitized silver-coated copper plates that were developed using heated mercury vapor. Over time, the original photos on these plates faded away due to years of tarnish on the surface. However, the mercury particles still remain and by using its special X-ray imaging in a scanning process that takes 8 hours per plate and required completing at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, the researchers were able to identify where mercury is distributed on each plate, recovering the original photos even when no trace of them can be seen. Importantly, the detailed scans area non-invasive way to study the historic relics.

“When we were able to get such resolution of those images beneath the tarnish, it was shocking. We were all thrilled with the outcome,” said Madalena Kozachuk, author of the paper.  “We have many different opportunities to expand this work. Other methods of restoring daguerreotypes have had limited success. Sometimes trying to clean up the plates has done more damage than good.”

“From a historical perspective, having these images now viewable. . . opens a whole new area of discovery,” she said. “You can recover portions of history that either were unknown or were thought to be lost.”

Kozachuk and her team tested the method out on two plates from the National Gallery of Canada’s photography research unit.  The two portraits, of an unknown man and an unidentified woman, may date from as early as 1850, before Canada was even a country.

beforeafterrecovery1-800x479beforeandafterrecovery2-800x46019th-century daguerreotypes with original photo hidden by tarnish (left) and the photo recovered with X-ray beams (right).

Madalena_KozachukMadalena Kozachuk is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry, The University of Western Ontario.  Madalena does research in synchrotron radiation in application to artefacts of cultural heritage, with a focus on daguerreotypes.

Sep 2014 – Sep 2019 The University of Western Ontario, Department of Chemistry London, Canada.  Position: PhD Candidate

Sep 2017 National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Photography Institute, Canada.  Position: Research Fellow

Recovery of Degraded-Beyond-Recognition 19 Century Daguerreotypes with Rapid High Dynamic Range Elemental X-ray Fluorescence Imaging of Mercury L Emission Article

Planetary astrophotography

88 years of evolution


This animation depicts the dwarf planet Pluto, viewed chronologically from its original discovery in 1930 until the present day.  The initial image was captured through a terrestrial telescope (1930), followed by a series of images captured by the Hubble Telescope  (beginning in the 1990’s) and then the incredible results of the New Horizons interplanetary space probe in 2015.

This demonstrates so well the simultaneous evolution of photography, communication and space travel in bettering human understanding.

Complete source list in order with image credits:

  • Clyde Tombaugh, Lowell Observatory, 1930: HERE
  • Hubble Space Telescope, 1996: HERE
  • Hubble Space Telescope, 1994: HERE
  • Hubble Space Telescope, 2011: HERE
  • Hubble Space Telescope, 2002-2003: HERE
  • New Horizons, April 9, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, May 12, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, June 2, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, June 15, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, July 1, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, July 3, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, July 8, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, July 10, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, July 11, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, July 13, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, July 14, 2015: HERE
  • New Horizons, July 15, 2015: HERE

M2 Wk4: Strategies of Freedom

Activity: Hands off!

Week 4 saw me leading a Year 8 Adventure Activities Trip to Dartmoor.  Opportunities to detour via anything stained glass in nature, with 50 teenaged children, were few.  However, for the trip I ditched my EOS-1D X MkII and travelled with the (relatively) diminutive Canon PowerShot G3 X in an effort to fulfil at least a small part of the Week 4 activity brief.

With the boys in the safe hands of a team of instructors, and having fulfilled the bread and butter photographic obligations for the school, I had the opportunity to appreciate the immediate surrounds.  Stepping just 10m back from the noise and bustle of 50 teenaged children enjoying rock climbing and abseiling on the Dewerstone near Shaugh Prior on the edge of Dartmoor, the sound soon dropped off leaving me enveloped in the beauty and tranquillity of the woodland.

Even on a bright sunny day, the woodland floor can be surprisingly dark, but shafts of sunlight penetrate the canopy to highlight the details of the native ferns.  This provided me with the chance to experiment with the macro settings on my point-and-shoot camera.  Although I was constantly wishing that I had travelled with my DSLR, the Canon G3 X coped pleasingly well, limited only (I suspect) by my lack of familiarity with its controls… that said, in the gentle breeze that was constantly playing with the plant life, it was a nightmare trying to focus on the tip of a frond!

IMG_5143 lrIMG_5148 lrIMG_5155 lrIMG_5159 lrIMG_5164 lr

Brammer v. Violent Hues LLC

Controversial copyright ruling based on ‘faulty understanding’

A copyright ruling against a photographer whose work was re-used has been criticized as a “very poor decision,” based on “a faulty understanding of the fair use doctrine,” by copyright lawyer Bert Krages.

The case began in 2017 when photographer Russell Brammer found one of his pictures (a long exposure shot of Adams Morgan, Washington D.C.) had been used on a website promoting the Northern Virginia Film Festival.  He asked for the firm to take the image down and sued for copyright infringement.  The image had been taken in 2011 and was uploaded to Flickr with an “All Rights Reserved” copyright notice.

In a ruling that shocked multiple legal experts, Judge Claude Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia ruled against the photographer.  The widely-reported ‘Brammer v. Violent Hues LLC’ case in the Eastern District of Virginia appeared to accept that the use of a crop of a photograph without permission as fair use.  However, while Krages questioned the decision, he also stressed that “the decision does not serve as precedent in other cases,” though he thinks “it’s likely that other defendants in copyright cases will cite to the case in the hopes of getting a favourable decision.”

Violent Hues removed the image upon being contacted by Brammer, but the photographer sued, both for copyright infringement and for removing copyright information from the image.  The court dismissed the copyright removal claim but then made a controversial ruling that Violent Hues’ use was covered by the ‘fair use’ exemption from copyright protection.

‘Fair use’ in US copyright law includes the consideration of four basic tests:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature. . .
  • The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Full story in PetaPixel.

The court’s ruling in the case can be found in its entirety HERE.